Assad Tours Wreckage in Eastern Ghouta as Siege of Syrian City Nears Completion

Bashar Assad
Syrian Presidency Facebook Page via AP

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad visited soldiers in the siege stricken area of Eastern Ghouta on Sunday as his forces reportedly appear to be on the verge of reclaiming the area.

Footage released by state television showed Assad greeting members of his Syrian Arab Army and being cheered on his arrival.

“The people of Damascus appreciate all of you for protecting the city, and we will remember this for tens of years, or even generations,” Assad told his soldiers.

“This battle has been bigger than Syria—today you are fighting this battle on behalf of the whole world,” he continued. “For each bullet you shot that killed a terrorist, you changed the balance of the world.”

The video resurfaced on Russia Today’s online outlet. Russia and Iran are the Assad regime’s most prominent benefactors.

Assad made the visit as his government forces close in on reclaiming the area following weeks of a Russian-backed bombing campaign that has killed over 1,000 and injured thousands more.

The government and rebels are holding negotiations over the possibility of a ceasefire. Some groups have asked the United Nations for humanitarian aid for the thousands of people hurt or displaced by the conflict.

“We are engaged in arranging serious negotiations to guarantee the safety and protection of civilians,” said Wael Alwan, Failaq al-Rahman’s Istanbul-based spokesman.

“The most important points under negotiation are a ceasefire, ensuring aid for civilians and the exit of medical cases and injured people needing treatment outside Ghouta,” he continued.

Those fleeing the siege into government-controlled towns are being immediately detained upon arrival.

“Today, there were people who were arrested in the town of Kafr Batna … men who have been leaving over the past three days are instantly being detained,” local activist Alaa al-Ahmed told Al Jazeera from the town of Ein Tarma in Eastern Ghouta.

“This is because the evacuations are happening without the supervision of international bodies, they’re taking place without any guarantees,” he added.

Syrian and Russian forces continued to bombard three rebel-held areas this week in what has become one of the most severe humanitarian crises during the country’s civil war, drawing condemnation from international bodies and human rights groups.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously voted in favor of a ceasefire resolution for Syria. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the situation as “hell on earth.”

The Assad regime appears to have willfully ignored the resolution as bombing campaigns continue to devastate the area, with some even reporting symptoms of chlorine gas exposure that suggest Assad’s forces may again have used chemical weapons against their own people.

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